Leeds U 5 (Gnonto 1, 36, Rodrigo 34, Bamford 71,76)
Cardiff C 2 (Robinson 84, 90+3 pen)
18th January 2023, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay.
Well, that was more like it! What an example of attacking football that was! No one can argue that we don’t now have one exciting team going forward. OK, this was only a poor Championship side that concedes loads of goals but, as they say, you can only play against what is in front of you. So, going forward, no issues at all, defending… meh, still nowhere near good enough and it does still worry me that we were undone twice and only saved from a third by VAR. Brentford on Sunday is still a massive game that could go either way depending on which Leeds's defence turns up.
Before the game last night, I felt that we had to win it and then beat Brentford if we were to see any calm descend over Elland Road and if Jesse Marsch was to continue in charge. So, the first part of that mission was accomplished, and, from an attacking point of view, it could hardly have been better.
A goal inside a minute should always prove a boost, although we have lamented how we too often then give up a good start in games. This time we were able to build on it and, so beautiful was that early goal, that it would have been a real travesty had it been lost in another collapse. Willy Gnonto has been a revelation since he arrived in the team and must now have cemented his place even with Luis Sinisterra now back and available. Crysencio Summerville was having a similar impact of course before his injury and it will be a complex jig-saw to complete once everyone is fit. If that ever transpires I’d expect Jack Harrison to be the one to miss out most often. For me last night he was still a weak link, so often in the thick of the play and yet seldom providing a killer ball – although to be fair his ball through to Rodrigo for the second goal is exactly what he should be doing more often. For now, we can just marvel at the skill Gnonto shows all the time and that volley from Rodrigo’s inch-perfect cross will linger long in the memory of everyone who saw it.
We quickly swamped Cardiff then with another lovely finish from Rodrigo himself and then another clever finish from Gnonto to put us three up inside 36 minutes. The strength of our squad of forwards is now probably better than we have seen in years and the arrival of Aaronson and Bamford at halftime for Adams and Rodrigo showed just that. We continued to play that same fast attacking football and this time it was Patrick Bamford showing us just what we’ve been missing for over a year – he’s come back looking like the Patrick Bamford who took the Premier League by storm two years ago. Both his finishes were sublime and reminded me of those clinical strikes we saw from him at Villa Park that time when he grabbed a hat trick. With Bamford in form, Rodrigo still going well, Rutter now arrived and the likes of Gnonto, Sinisterra, and Summerville to load the bullets surely we are now well placed to start to make a mark on the Premier League. And have you ever seen five such classy goals scored by Leeds in a single game? I’ll let you all ponder that!
There is a question mark still though, and we all know what that is; as fabulous as we were going forward last night, albeit against weak opposition, at the back we still looked wobbly even in this company.
We were lucky to escape in the first half when VAR intervened to chalk off what looked a perfectly good – albeit very scrappy – goal for the Bluebirds from a simple corner but the second half saw a howler from Luke Ayling to allow the ball to squeeze through to Robinson to score. The second Cardiff goal I’m uncertain about; if Roca intentionally handled the ball then it was more dire defending but if, as I suspect it merely clipped his arm unintentionally, then it’s another one we just have to put down to VAR – what cannot be argued is that the referee's original decision to play on cannot be considered as a clear and obvious error so VAR should not have intervened. The authorities are stressing this clear and obvious thing so much and yet they come up with that last night? Makes no sense.
So, a thumping victory with Leeds showing just what an attacking armoury we now have and we will need all that again to try to overwhelm Brentford on Sunday. Quite who will form the back four for that one and whether we can for once avoid shooting ourselves in the foot awaits to be seen. The sight of Max Wober limping off was a big worry as many have already pointed out, we are yet to concede a goal while he’s been on the pitch. Coincidence?, Or is he the difference? Let’s hope he’s there to start on Sunday and we may find out.
Leeds Cardiff C
Possession 52% 48%
Shots 23 6
On Target 9 4
Corners 10 1
Fouls 12 8